In anticipation of Feist's upcoming album Metals, I took a deeper look into the Canadian songstress' musical journey--and quite a journey it has been. With countless collaborations and contributions, it's no wonder she has taken a well-deserved break from recording.
What really blew me away was the very first band Feist, neé Leslie Feist, joined back in 1991: An rock/metal group called Placebo--not to be confused with the English band. Thanks to the magic of Youtube here's a video of one of her early shows. I can't begin to express how much I love the metalheads and goths reveling in the audience.
Fifteen-year-old Feist bellowing with powerful, Eddie Vedder-cum-Bjork vocals (note: this was way before Amy Lee), a septum nose piercing and prairie dress? Obsessed! It was with Placebo that she won a Battle of the Bands that got them a slot at a festival featuring punk gods the Ramones, and put such strain on her voice, that the resulting injury caused doctors to tell her she would never sing again. That injury and her overcoming of it surely resulted in a 180-degree turn in her musical style.
Taking a forced break from singing, she played bass for Noah's Arkweld, and rhythm guitar for By Divine Right with Brendan Canning--who went on to form Broken Social Scene. See, it's all about who you know.
In 1999, Feist released her first solo album Monarch, a mix of moody coffeehouse melodies and indie pop, with effusive use of violins and effects. This album is now considered a rarity, demanding as high as $230 (but I'd love to see what a Placebo album would go for)! A far cry from her punk days, this album is a revealing, hypnotizing turning point for Feist.
But wait: She hadn't gone soft. Also in 1999, Feist moved in with Merrill Nisker, soon to be known as the raunchy electroclash diva Peaches. Feist joined her on stage under the name Bitch Lap Lap, and performed with a sock puppet. She toured with Peaches, appeared in music videos and provided guest vocals for The Teaches Of Peaches album.
Feist's second solo album Let It Die finds sweeter, more upbeat ground--starting as a home-recorded, seven-song album in 2001 and then re-recorded for her major label debut in 2004. Layering jazz, bossa nova and disco onto her indie sound, the album won "Best New Artist" and "Best Alternative Rock Album" Juno awards. She collaborated with artists like the Bee Gees, Ron Sexsmith and artist/producer Gonzales.
Between 2001 and 2004, Feist joined her friend Canning in a reformation of Broken Social Scene for their second album, providing vocals for a number of tracks. She then took off to tour Europe with Gonzales.
Heavily touring worldwide for the next few years, Feist released an album of Let It Die remixes called Open Season, recruiting her friends and artists like Peaches, the Postal Service and even iconic '60s belle Jane Birkin. Feist contributed to a song for UNICEF and vocals for a song on the Paris, Je T'Aime's film soundtrack.
In 2007, Feist released what would soon be her breakout album, The Reminder. While a star in Canada, Feist was still an underdog in the U.S., until a little company called Apple, promoting a little product called an iPod nano, chose her song and video for "1234" to use in their TV commercials. From sweet to sensual, this album marks yet another step in Feist's evolution with different sounds, and took multiple top spots in Best of 2007 lists. She won the "Album of the Year" Juno award, and was nominated for four Grammys including "Best Pop Album" 2008.
In the whirlwind of recognition, Feist made her acting debut in a short film directed by Broken Social Scene bandmate Kevin Drew alongside actor Cillian Murphy, performed on Saturday Night Live, and--the real kicker--performed an alternative version "1234" on Sesame Street teaching kids how to count.
Interestingly enough, what earned Feist her first Grammy was for her part in Stephen Colbert's A Colbert Christmas album. He contributed the song "Please Be Patient" and played an angel on the televised special. The album won the "Best Comedy Album" Grammy in 2010.
All this has lead up to her return to music with
her latest album Metals, which drops on October 4. Lucky for you,
Yahoo! and Starbucks are streaming an exclusive first performance of five
tracks from her album that can't be seen anywhere else! To access the
performance, visit this site
to learn more. Having had the privilege of seeing the content before the
public, I can so far say that Feist's new album returns to her mellow indie
roots, for her most introspective work yet.